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190-acre wildfire south of Green Cove Springs now 90% contained

Flames spread within mile of Big Oak Wolf Sanctuary

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – A 190-acre wildfire that ignited Tuesday afternoon near train tracks south of Green Cove Springs was 90 percent contained as of 10 a.m. Wednesday, the Florida Forest Service said.

The size of the fire was earlier estimated to be up to 350 acres, but aerial mapping showed it was had not consumed as much land as firefighters estimated Tuesday night.

As Clay County firefighters and forestry personnel battled the brush fire burning near Decoy Road and County Road 209 South, 10 forestry bulldozers began plowing fire lines and a helicopter dropped water on the flames. 

Putnam County firefighters also responded and Jacksonville Fire Rescue sent about 10 fire units as mutual aid.

Annaleasa Winter, of the Florida Forest Service, said Tuesday evening that the fire had charred 225 acres, an area much smaller than the first estimates of more than 350 acres.

According to Winter, forestry officials are looking into whether sparks from a train passing through the area are to blame for the fire. 

At last check, no structures were threatened and no evacuations had been issued, but residents in the area of Woodard Lane and Varney Road were asked to use caution.

"I came home from work and when I got to Decoy Road here, it was closer to my house than what we originally thought," resident Mandy Calley said.

PHOTOS: Wildfire burns in Clay County

The owner of Big Oak Wolf Sanctuary, which is located about a mile west of the fire, told News4Jax the flames were close enough that he was on the verge of grabbing a few of the smaller animals and leaving. 

"I was panicking. But we were working hard to get everything straightened up and out of the way of the fire if it were to come here," said owner John Knight.

Knight said there are currently 60 wolves at the 10-acre sanctuary. If the flames had come onto his property, Knight said, many of the larger wolves would have been forced to retreat underground. 

"You can't plan for this. But at least they do have the underground den the animals can get in if the fire comes through," he said. 

WATCH: Big Oak Wolf Sanctuary concerned about nearby brush fire

The underground dens are made to protect the wolves from the Florida heat in the summer and during the lightning storms. Had the flames inched any closer to the sanctuary, the wolves' only chance of survival would have been to run underground to take cover. 

Thankfully, none of the animals at the sanctuary were harmed. 


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